Skin cancer and life insurance

Skin cancer can be benign or malignant

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. The most common cause of skin cancer is over exposure to the sun. Ninety percent of skin cancers occur on sun exposed skin. Finding affordable life insurance is all about finding the right carrier who underwrites skin cancer the best.

When a doctor finds a skin lesion on your body typically he will remove it or have it removed by a surgeon. The lesion is then reviewed under a microscope by a lab to determine if the skin cancer is benign or a malignant cancer.

Benign skin cancers– below is a list of some of the typical diagnosis of benign skin cancers. These types of lesions are typically not harmful and have not spread or invade in other cells, thus they are not malignant or cancerous.

  • Caruncle
  • Cyst
  • Cystadenoma
  • Furuncle
  • Hyperkeratosis
  • Keloid
  • Keratocanthoma
  • Poroma
  • Seborrheic keratosis
  • Skin tag
  • Trichoepithelioma
  • wart
  • William’s tumor
  • Xanthoma

From a life insurance underwriting standpoint all the above mentioned benign skin cancers would not have any additional ratings or extra premium charge. And if the applicant meets all other underwriting criteria could still be considered for the preferred best rate class.

Malignant single or multiple skin cancer– below are a list of malignant skin cancers. Malignant skin cancers show a change in the structure of the lesion and has the potential to involve other areas of the body. The exact diagnosis of the type of lesion is critical in determining if a life insurance offer is available.

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Cutaneous horn
  • Epidemoid carcinoma
  • Epithelioma, malignant
  • Fibroepithellal  tumor of Pinkus
  • Keratoacanthoma, malignant
  • Merkel Cell carcinoma
  • Neuroendocrine carcinoma
  • Pricle cell carcinoma
  • Spindel cell carcinoma
  • Squamosbasal cell carcinoma
  • Squamos cell carcinoma
  • Verrucous carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Basal-cell nevus syndrome

Malignant Melanoma- malignant melanoma skin cancer is the least common but most serious skin cancer. Below is a list of the most common melanomas:

  • Acral Lentiginous
  • Desmoplastic variant
  • Lentigo maligna
  • Nodular
  • Radial spreading
  • Subungual
  • Superficial Spreading
  • Unclassified

Who is most likely to get skin cancer?

Those most likely to get skin cancer have:

  • A family history of melanoma
  • Fair skin that burns easily and tans poorly
  • Red or blonde hair
  • Blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence
  • Dysplastc nevi (atypical moles)

Underwriting skin cancer applicantsskin cancer and life insurance

For the purposes of this article we will review the different types of malignant skin cancers and what the most likely outcome is for an individual applying for life insurance. Although their are different variations of each type as mentioned above the three types of skin cancer are classifed as:

  1. Basal cell carcinoma– is the most common type and has the best prognosis. It usually looks like a small pearly nodule that slowly grows. Lesions are surgically removed. Recurrences are common, but it rarely metastasizes (spreads to different sites). Localized basal cell cancers, after excisions are typically not rated.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma– can be a nodule or a reddish patch. Recurrences are common, and 3-10% will metastasize. Localized squamous cell cancers after incision, are typically not rated.
  3. Malignant Melanoma- is the least common, but most serious and can start as a mole. Lesions are surgically removed. Melanoma metasizes early and widely. Even after surgical removal, recurrences can occur. Prognostic factors include lesion thickness, Clark’s level of invasion, growth pattern, skin ulceration, number of melanomas, number and size of positive nodes, intralymphatic metastases and distant metastases.

Most of the information needed by the underwriting department will come from the pathology report or surgeon’s report which will give the details of the Staging, Clark Level and spreading of the tumor. If you have a copy of your pathology report this can make the underwriting process go much quicker as your broker can then discuss your history.

Important– Applicants with positive lymph nodes or metastases are not insurable for traditional coverage. But, a guaranteed issued policy or accidental death policy may still be available. 

Example case of skin cancer underwriting

When underwriting an individual  for life insurance who has a history of skin cancer, the underwriter must have a complete picture of the insured’s risk. As mentioned earlier the most important piece of information will be the pathology report. This will show the underwriter these main factors in determining the risk:

  • When the tumor was diagnosed and surgically removed
  • What the thickness of the tumor was
  • What the Clark’s level (level or invasion) was
  • What the staging was and if ulceration occured

Once the underwriter has the information and any other pertinent medical history regarding the applicant, he can think make an offer for coverage.

So, for our example we will use Sally a 45 year old female who is in excellent health other than a melanoma removed from her shoulder 2 years ago. After reviewing the pathology report and see the tumor was reported had a Stage 2 T2N rating with a Clark Level II description, the underwriter determined that an additional $7.50 per thousand of coverage was warranted for 4 years.

Now, what does this mean in dollars and cents? Most cancers that are underwritten for life insurance typically receive either a standard offer or a flat extra rating. The flat extra rating is an additional premium surcharge to cover the additional risk. Typically the flat extra rating will last for a certain number of years, such as the case with Sally which would be 4 years.

This flat extra helps cover the risk that the tumor may reoccur within the 4 year period. All life insurance underwriting is based on statistical probability of death occurring. In this case, the underwrite felt the risk warranted additional premium for 4 years. After 4 years of paying this additional premium the rate would then fall back to the standard rate for her age and amount of coverage.

So, with that said, let’s assume Sally’s standard rate for the policy she wants at her age is $1,000 per year for $100,000 of protection. With the additional $7. 50 per thousand flat extra, she would pay $1,750 for the first 4 years of her policy and then her rate would drop back down to $1,000 for the remainder of her contractual term.

Now, these rates are just examples of what could happen based on a certain situation. The rates and figures do not represent and actual case and are used for illustrative purposes only.

All life insurance companies underwrite risks differently. They all look at health and lifestyle differently. What one company might rate standard another company might offer a $7.50 flat extra. Your job is to find the company that will underwrite you the best for your situation. Fortunately, you have landed on this page. We are experts at knowing which carriers offer the lowest rates.

Questions for underwriting skin cancer applicants

Okay, so you have determined your need for coverage and wish to shop the marketplace. Here are some basic questions that your broker will need in order to assist you quickly.

  1. Date of first diagnosis?
  2. Indicate type of skin cancer diagnosed? I.E. Basal cell, squamous cell or malignant melanoma
  3. When was last diagnosis?
  4. Where was the skin cancer located?
  5. Has the cancer spread beyond the skin?
  6. Any evidence of reoccurred?
  7. If malignant melanoma, do you know the stage, clark level, thickness, any positive lymph nodes?
  8. Currently taking any medication?
  9. Any other major medical issues like diabetes or heart disease?


If you are in the market for life insurance and have a history of skin cancer, please contact us for a free analysis of your situation. We can often times give you a tentative rate on the phone. We are experts in the special risk life insurance arena. You can reach us at 1-888-393-9003 or



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How can I help?

Mike Raines

I am an independent life insurance agent with over 30 years’ experience. I am an expert in finding coverage for those with past or current medical history such as heart disease, diabetes, post cancer, etc. I also specialize in those that participate in scuba diving, mountain climbing, private pilots, etc. I work with the best life insurance companies in the nation, such as Prudential, AIG, Protective Life, Transamerica to name a few. Each carrier has different opinions on rates and underwriting, and it is my job to match you with the best company. To do that, I need to ask you a few questions about your health and lifestyle to qualify you.

For a FREE quote, call, text or email:

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